I thought that I would be presenting an anomaly for this month’s DFF book club — a book that we didn’t actually own. However, just yesterday I finally obtained a fair secondhand copy at a garage sale, and now I can present to you a new favourite from our shelves.

The DFF Book Club

Just because a book is made into a movie doesn’t mean that the book is made redundant. How many times have you come away from a film saying, “The book was better”?

Charlotte's Web, March 2010

Charlotte’s Web is one of those books. Don’t spoil it by showing the movie to your kids. Read them the book instead, and then let them read the book too.

Brioni, 3yo, Lauren + Aisha, 5yo, March 2010
We've been enjoying reading a chapter or two each day.

In reading this to my girls, there were several specific things that reminded me why Charlotte’s Web is exceptional. The novel contains a nice range of characters with different personalities and voices. This makes it a lot of fun to read aloud (if you like “doing” voices), and there weren’t too many to complicate things.

I found it helpful to read the dialogue in which Charlotte would explain real words to Wilbur the pig. This saved me the trouble of explaining the new vocabulary to the girls. These little lessons were woven into the story so neatly.

I also liked the educational aspect of the book. The kids heard about how a farm works, learned about the life cycle of a spider and the truth about what happens to those cute animals on the farm.

Spider, March 2010
Aisha came running up to me. "Come, look, Mummy!" she cried. "The spider is doing what Charlotte does!"

This book introduces some dark themes without going overboard — death, grief, loss — as well as the more positive themes of maturity (Fern growing interested in boys), friendship and loyalty. We don’t eat pork much, so I’m not sure if Charlotte’s Web would put your children off their meat, but mine weren’t affected.

We got this book out of the library. Our version contained a bit of colour in the original illustrations, which added to its charm. Charlotte’s Web is a good introduction to chapter books for children aged five and over. (I managed to keep Brioni at my side, but only just!)

There’s a reason it’s a classic, and that reason is why you should have it on your shelves too. Buy it here.